BYU’s Football Legacy: Reality or Dementia?

Duane RogowskiContributor ISeptember 2, 2010

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 1:  Large signs hang outside Lavell Edwards Stadium where it was announced that BYU football will become independent in 2011 separating from the Mountain West Conference, September 1, 2010 in Provo, Utah. The remaining BYU sports will become affiliated with the West Coast Conference in 2011. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

When news came out about BYU’s contemplation of going independent in football many fans and sports writers of fellow Mountain West Conference teams said that BYU was being “arrogant” or “delusional” to believe that they had an actual football legacy, rich tradition, and national following.  Writers have also referred to BYU’s “dementia” as a possible cause for their wanting to try the independence road, these writers have been from football powerhouses like Wyoming, San Diego State, and UNLV so I thought their opinions deserved a closer look.  I will take a look at the mental stability of the BYU administration and fan base to see if indeed they are a bit unstable or is there some real substance to BYU’s football legacy.


First let’s start off by making it known loud and clear that BYU is NOT Notre Dame.  Tom Holmoe, BYU’s Director of Athletics, stated this publically and I have not heard one BYU fan or sports writer even hint that BYU has a legacy anywhere near Notre Dames.  This “arrogance” and “dementia” has only been in the eyes of BYU’s opponents.


An argument that many use to try and dispel BYU’s football legacy is that BYU has not been to a BCS game.  It is always amusing to hear BYU fans bring up all the accomplishments and accolades that BYU has earned and received over the decades and their opponents can only say, “Well BYU hasn’t been to a BCS game.”  Wow, if going to a BCS game is all it takes to have a football legacy then I have to rethink my idea of the college football landscape.  What do Syracuse, Stanford, Washington State, Purdue, Oregon State, Maryland, Colorado, Illinois, and Kansas State all have in common in the football world?  Since the inception of the BCS is 1998 each of these teams has been to a BCS game, not quite the who’s-who of the college football world but according to those who believe that going to a BCS game equates to having a football legacy and tradition then all these schools must now be considered national football powers.


Since many of those who dislike BYU think college football began in 2004 let’s just look at those teams that have been to a BCS game since 2004.  This would include the football powerhouses Hawaii, Louisville, and Kansas as well as the legendary Wake Forest, Cincinnati, and Georgia Tech.  Of course I am being sarcastic, the teams listed in this and the prior paragraph are not known to have rich football legacies or traditions.  These examples dispel the myth that just because BYU has not gone to a BCS game yet that they are irrelevant in the football world without a legacy and rich tradition


Another argument people try to bring up is that BYU does not have a national following, that BYU is irrelevant in the football world outside of the Rocky Mountains.  Over the past 10 years whenever BYU travels to another school the attendance for that game is on average over 7% higher than the season average for all that school’s other home games.  It doesn’t matter where BYU travels to they increase attendance; SEC, Pac-10, Big East, ACC, or Notre Dame.  Of the games BYU has played at BCS schools over the past 10 years only once (USC/2003) did the attendance fall below the season average for the home team and this period includes BYU’s worse 3 seasons in decades.  This fact proves that people show up for games against BYU, love them or hate them attendance goes up when BYU is in town and the home team makes more money. 


Using the University of Utah as comparison, a school from the same geographic region and conference as BYU, of the games Utah has played at BCS schools over the past 10 years only once (Louisville/2007) did the attendance go above the season average for the home team and this period includes Utah’s glory years (both of them).  It can be argued that Utah is the second best draw in the conference but to only have one game where the attendance went up for the BCS home team shows there is a huge disparity in popularity between BYU and number two.  Many MWC schools have a pretty weak fan base but when BYU comes to town everyone finds a way to attend the game.  In 2000 a University of Utah season ticket holder and friend of mine told me the reason he buys seasons tickets is to insure he has a ticket for the BYU games when they visit Utah every other year.  The facts make it obvious that some teams draw fans wherever they play and most do not, I argue that this fact has more to do with a football team’s legacy, tradition, and national following than anything else.


It is easy to hate BYU, believe me I have been on the other side of the fence.  I grew-up a Cal fan and hated UCLA; the Bruins consistently beat my beloved Bears not only in football but in every sport.  The golden boys of UCLA got more press coverage and were on the national scene much more than Cal was and my jealousy festered within me.  My favorite football teams each week were Cal and whoever was playing UCLA, I was always checking the news to see what UCLA did and didn’t mind if Cal lost as long as UCLA lost on the same week.  I like many other Cal fans had the “little brother” syndrome; we detested those arrogant players from down south as well as their delusional fans.  Does this feeling sound familiar to those anti-BYU fans out there?


It is especially easy to hate BYU if you are in the same conference as they are; BYU has won 22 of 35 football conference (WAC and MWC) championships since 1975.  BYU’s winning ways are not restricted to just their skill on the gridiron, since the creation of the Mountain West Conference there have been 192 conference championship tournaments for various men and women’s sports and BYU has won 90 of the 192 championships.  That is 47% of all conference championships, no wonder BYU is so easy to hate or be jealous of within the conference, UCLA didn’t even dominate the Pac-10 that badly when I hated them.  The next most successful team in the MWC is UNLV with 25 championships.  


The loathing of BYU is often times very blind especially among fans but once in a while a media member will try to add their 2-cents worth and it is quickly obvious that they too are commenting from their heart instead of their brain, media members should always report on the facts and leave their emotions out of it.  


Last week a columnist in Fort Worth declared that BYU has “not gone to a single BCS bowl or really done anything except be a sometimes foil to the real juice of the conference, Utah and TCU.”  The fact is that since TCU joined the conference in 2005 BYU has won 2 of the 5 MWC conference championships; TCU has also won 2 championships while Utah has won 1.  In addition BYU finished in the top 3 each of those seasons something neither TCU nor Utah can lay claim to, TCU was 5th in 2007 while Utah was 4th in 2007 and 5th in 2005, yet this columnist somehow believes BYU gets lucky once in awhile, to me the facts show that BYU is the more consistent winner of the three teams.


A legacy is a body of work accumulated over a long period of time through a lot of hard work.  To say that BYU does not have a football following or a rich football tradition is an emotional response, the facts speak loud and clear that BYU does indeed have a football legacy.